Oh, my soul…

Oh, my soul,
You are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day, He will make a way.
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down.
‘Cause you’re not alone.
-Casting Crowns, “Oh, My Soul”

If I were being honest, and I think it’s necessary that I be honest here, I would say the above affirmation, the declaration to my soul that I am not alone, touches a spot so deeply in my soul, it almost feels raw and exposed, like a festering wound. The part of me that yearns to have it all under control feels somehow failed to admit that feeling alone feels incredible heavy and well… lonely.  It’s so cliche, but there are honestly times when I can be in a room full of people and feel somehow invisible and isolated. I’m not being a victim, just being real.  I realize I am probably surprising some people because they see me in a different light from that.  I am, after all, the social one, aren’t I? When I push through the inner turmoil, the apprehension, the discomfort, to be part of whatever it is I am involved with, I appear to be somewhat of a social butterfly {be cautious when believing things are as they appear}, but I would be so much more comfortable crawling under a table and hiding, from everything and every one. Interesting how you can see things a certain way, and it be such a far cry from reality?

But my soul.

The cry of my soul is for someone to see past that, reach into my invisibility cloak and offer me a deep sense of belonging.

I know.  It’s a paradox.  I can’t have it both ways.

Introversion is a comfortable place for me. It’s a safe place.  I get things done in my quiet solitude.  I like to get things done.  It gives me great joy to mark things off of my to-do list.  It satisfies that goal-orientedness gene in me. However, what I’ve been learning lately {in every direction I turn} is that introversion is actually my hiding place.  I don’t have to be vulnerable when I am alone.  I don’t have to put myself out there.  I don’t have to worry about looking or sounding foolish or feeling awkward.  Introversion gives me respite from potential hurt.  I’ve learned at the same time, we were never intended to go it alone.  We are made to be relational, to belong to something, someone.

In Genesis 2:18, we read the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” {Relationship}
But, it’s also true, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed {Luke 5:16}, to have alone time with the Father, but He still had His core group, the 12, the 3 for very special moments. Even in that solitude He sought, though, He had intimate connection with the Father. He was not alone.

One Sunday morning, while speaking to a man at our church service, I asked him (again, forcing myself out from under the table), “How long have you been coming here?” He told me he’d been coming for a few months, but then he elaborated, “I really enjoy it here.  I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged before, but here, I feel like I do belong.”

“I feel like I do BELONG.”

oh my soul 051617
Sure, introversion is a comfy spot for me, but truth be told, I long for belonging.  And to add more truth to the matter, the comfort of isolation is instigated by a fear of not belonging or not being accepted because my deepest desire is truly to belong. Introversion feels comfy, but it can be so lonesome. I know in my knower that I don’t belong in isolation. In the depths of my soul, I yearn to feel not alone. As much as I may try or just think I want to hide, my soul wants connection.  My soul craves belonging.

There’s just this matter of protection. The isolation born in the fear of not belonging, not being accepted… being possibly rejected, since I have been in the past.  That was real, and it hurt. Bad. Stepping out of isolation becomes a matter of trusting God with the outcomes, trusting Him with my heart, being assured of His sovereignty and trusting His good for me, being secure with the even if, as I wrote about in my previous blog.

What I have discovered though, is at the perfect moments, in the perfect ways, He provides people, my people.  Old friends and newly discovered ones, placed in my path at the perfect moment, for them, for me, a wonderfully orchestrated masterpiece, put together piece by piece. Will I be hurt along the way, stepping out of isolation? Probably.  People are just trying to figure things out, and in the same ways I mess up, so do they. Will some friendships not work out? Possibly.  He has a beautiful way of filling those gaps and holes and broken places.

But trusting Him.
Trusting Him to provide what I need when I need it.
Trusting my heart to God enough to give Him the chance to heal the broken spots.
Even if that means making myself vulnerable to the hurt people bring to the table…

That feels right.  It feels like the community God has designed for us. It’s one of the  ways our loving Father binds up our broken hearts and heals our wounds. He gives us people, families, friends. It is not good for man to be alone.

And I can declare, Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. {Psalm 62:5}
And my soul finds rest in belonging.
In not being alone.
And I am OK with that.
Jenn

In case you are interested in hearing my inspiration: http://vevo.ly/9G1RP3

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Even if…

Loss.  It’s so personal.

It’s unique to the one experiencing it.

It can literally consume a person.

I’ve seen it happen.

It can set a person free.

I’ve seen that happen, as well.

My husband and I, we’ve been in a season of exceptional loss.

Loss has been a significant part of the raging storm I’ve talked about.

Loss has a way of changing life on its heels, shifting priorities, changing perspectives.  There can be varying degrees of loss.  There are different types and categories of loss.

Our family has experienced different degrees, types and categories of loss. It’s been downright hard.  My {step} father lost his battle with cancer in October, but he had been lost long before then, struggling to engage with anyone, depression had robbed us of him long, long ago. In March, my father-in-law lost his life to apparent cancer, but his mind had been stolen from us to the perils of dementia years ago. So much loss. So much more even. Walking through the refining fire, as my husband says.  Sometimes it seems unbearable. No matter how I prepare for the storm.  No matter how I study the storm. No matter how much I know that my God controls that storm and is, in fact, bigger than that storm, when the storm hits… that storm. There is an impact. How could there not be?

A song was recently released on the radio, a song by MercyMe called “Even If”.

The lyrics of the song begin with a man, a worship leader, singing about how in life sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and he confesses to being in a season of loss.  He shares how easy it is to sing God’s praises when things are going well (our way), how it’s especially easy to share that message with others, but when the storm hits, and we’re held to the flame, it’s not so easy when things feel so not right… but this singer wants to be able to sing anyhow.

I think the hardest part of the storm, the flame as this man describes it, is we don’t control the outcome. As people of faith, we are called to rest our faith in our sovereign God and lean into Him when the storm rages, when the refining flames swell, when life throws you loss upon loss.  We are asked to trust God, with the hurt, with the hard, with the loss, with the outcomes we didn’t ask for… with those times when the mustard seed faith doesn’t budge the mountain we wanted to move because maybe it’s not the mountain God wanted moved or perhaps even the one He is moving, at that very moment.

This song.
“Even If”.
It speaks to my soul.

even if used

Through it all, I’ve become quite the observer of people during times of loss.  I find myself intrigued by the different ways people process loss. All the stages, all the different ways they manifest.  How other things tend to surface during loss, other issues that may have been dormant or even dealt with… somehow reemerge to become somewhat of a current issue.  Past hurts long ago buried swell up and beg to be addressed, right now, as hard as that may be. How loss can have a sort of compounding effect when combined with other substantial losses. Dealing with loss we thought we were OK with only to discover we weren’t as OK with it as we thought. A loss of something we think we should still have can be downright excruciating, agonizing even.

I am guilty of so often stepping into the role and position of lord of my own life. In my prayer life, I have caught myself issuing God a demands list of “Jennifer thinks things would be just fine if You (Lord of all, Creator of the universe, Knower of all things there are to know) would just _______________.”
Then everything would be… just… fine. Right?
HA! As if I know all things and how this affects that and what needs to happen to result in the good that is promised to those who love Him and are called to His service. I am one who has built a life for myself rooted in perceived control.  I’m not proud of that.  It’s just a matter of fact.  Perfecting my completely detailed to-do list and executing each step precisely as described according to my infallible plan, and everything should turn out exactly as I expected. Shouldn’t it?

Each moment of chaos, each crisis, each life-change, each loss is really just a reminder that we aren’t in control. Control is an illusion, a deceptive tool to push us toward self-reliance, so our lives will spiral out of control and we will be driven further away from the One who really is in control. We aren’t promised the next moment. There aren’t guarantees. And we, as much as we may have it all planned out, do not have authority over the outcomes.

As the storms rage around me, stirring up wind, destroying structures, shaking the very foundation I stand on and demolishing the tight grasp I thought I had on my own life, the lives of loved ones, family, friends and the circumstances which surround those lives, it is all put into perspective just how small I am.  It’s not up to me.  Who do I think I am?

I don’t control the outcomes. I get a choice of the steps I will take, of the responses I will offer, of the reactions to the circumstances that seem to creep into that so-called infallible plan. All the worry over my perfect plan, though, is in vain, because ultimately I don’t decide what happens in the end.

So often, I find myself wrapping my joy, my peace, my hope, my feeling loved, my definition of success in a neatly tied package of if-only.  If we’ll allow it, though, if-only turns into but God. If I truly trust Him to be sovereign, as I profess He is, I should trust God with the outcome as well. Whatever that may be.

In the song, the singer ultimately gets to a place where he submits to God and despite the season of loss and his implied hope of a particular outcome, he wants to be able to be OK with the actual outcome even if it looks nothing like he expected.

So, my goal, since this song reaches deeply into my soul and tugs at the very essence of me, urging me to hear what my heart should already know, is to truly allow my if-onlys to become even-ifs.  He promises peace and rest to those who ask and come to Him. The route to peace and rest is the path of even if.  Even if life doesn’t turn out the way I asked or wanted or planned, each step has a purpose.  Though I grieve loss upon loss, my hope rests in His outcome for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. Even if it looks nothing like I thought it should or would, I can rest in His promises of the plans He has for my life for good and not harm. If He doesn’t pull me from the fire, I trust that the fire has a purpose.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

MercyMe – “Even If”

It is well with my soul.

And I am OK with that,
Jenn

When the storm comes…

Certainly, you’ve experienced it.  That storm. You know the one. That horrifying, part-the-blue-skies, ominous clouds, raging winds, growling thunderous echoes roaring from its belly type of storm. The one that seems to come after you. The one that intensifies the closer it gets. You can’t help but feel the tingle of anxiety in the pit of your being as you wonder, will this one get me? What kind of disaster will this storm bring into my life?

Having been a storm chaser, I know this storm all too well. I don’t fear the storm though.  For some reason, I never have. I’ve always been fascinated by its very nature, respectful of the power, the force and the potential for destruction it carries. I’ve seen with my own eyes and heard many survivors’ horrendous accounts of what that storm can do.

It was just another day for me, and I was leaving work.  To the east, crisp, clear blue beautiful skies, birds chirping, light breeze getting a bit more wispy, but I could smell it.  I could smell the storm in the air. As I faced the beautiful blue, winds picked up at my back and I knew, a storm, a big storm was coming. As I turned to face the inevitable, I was blasted with a gust and the cloud formation was an awesome display of His Creation, declaring His GLORY. The storm carried with it, a whale’s belly of tumultuous skies, steadily shifting and sifting and stirring up angry unstable skies just to my west.  Ah, yes.  The storm was coming. As I mentioned already, I don’t fear the storm. I know Who has me in the midst, but alas, I was hardly interested in getting drenched before my coffee date, so I raced the storm, watching it chase me down in the rear view mirror.

No matter which direction I turned, the storm bubbled up from every direction in hot pursuit of me.  Arriving at the coffee shop, I stepped from my car to be assaulted by another blast of wind from this raging monster. I stood to face it, allowing the howling wind to assault me, almost as if telling the storm it was no match for the One who controls it.

It was at that point I heard, in a crisp clear voice, perhaps from Spirit deep inside of me, perhaps buried in a clap of thunder, perhaps whispered in the breeze, but the message was clear and the words were, “This storm is coming for you.”

Immediately, that proclamation uttered for me incited a twinge of pulse flutter as it planted itself in my soul as a warning of things to come. This storm that I faced in the physical represented something I was about to face in the spiritual, and it was coming for me. My knower knew. It was so much bigger than this storm before me, but His warning, His proclamation helped me somehow feel more equipped, somehow secure.  I whispered this prayer to the Wind, “Lord, make me ready.”

Ready.

I didn’t ask He take the storm from me.
I didn’t ask, why me?
I just wanted to be ready.

coming-storm-dec-2016

It’s funny how storms so easily figuratively represent trials people face in life.  If I tell you, I faced a storm in my life, you most likely understand that to mean a rough patch, some level of suffering, some circumstance that was beyond my control and raked me over the coals.  Well, the storm has most definitely arrived in my life.  Life has turned on end many times over, as if caught in a rip current.  The compilation of life situations have been a whirlwind of astronomic proportions, yet each step, He has used the storm, the larger than life trials, to teach me, equip me, grow me, stretch me, ready me, and show me how He would have me navigate. He placed me in a private IC(see)U room {borrowed from a dear kindred},  just Him and me, where He has offered tender care and guidance, shelter and refuge. I have found during that time with Him, wrapped in His gentle and assuring loving Presence, the Peace that surpasses understanding.

I’ve shared in previous blogs my nature is to take control, be the leader, be the one who has answers, solutions, fixes for all the problems.  My nature is to figure out the way, if I don’t already know it.  It’s to be decisive, maintain control, step up to the plate and swing. The problem with the storm is, I am not in control of the storm. I might understand the science of the storm. I may be able to discern which way things are going. I may be able to show scientifically where and when and how, but in reality, it’s not up to me. It never has been. Sometimes, we just find ourselves there, in the middle of the storm, and all the knowledge in the world won’t spare us. We just have to batten down the hatches and hunker down.

This is where I found myself over these past several months, in the eye of the storm, in the middle of the {spiritual} war. Life. It does tend to get tedious. It can become for us a valley of the shadow of death. I find it at times suffocating how all-encompassing it can become. I had heard in that Wind on that stormy day “the storm is coming for you!”, but now through loving guidance and kind teaching from a loving Father, I believe instead He was saying “The storm is coming, for you.”  It was coming for my sake, to give Him opportunities to teach me, to stretch me, to grow me.  It was all part of His plan. He didn’t take away my storm; instead He used it for my good, in ways only He could.

Genesis 50:20(ESV)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Through it all, I have learned so much about my God, myself, my relationships, my place. He has taught me. He has shown me.  The storm was coming, for me. For me to learn, be equipped, grow, stretch, be ready,  and see some things I needed help seeing and only the storm would make me see. I do not fear the storm.  I am thankful for it.

I am not afraid of the storm; I know the One who controls the storm.
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm
Ryan Stevenson – “Eye of the Storm”

And I’m OK with that,
Jenn

P.S. This song has been powerful for me during this stormy season.  Perhaps you can be comforted by it in your own.
Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson

Do you want to be made well?

Do I want to be made well?

Seems as if it should have such an obvious answer that it doesn’t bear asking. Doesn’t it?

Shouldn’t it be a quick resounding yes! I guess the quick answer at the shallow end of the pool is easily yes, before plunging into those deeper spots, before exposing those deep roots.
Absolutely, I don’t want this illness.
I can’t wait for this issue to heal so I can resume “normal life”.
I am so ready for them to figure out a cure for this {fill in the blank} disease.
I no longer want to cling to fear and insecurity and rejection and control… I want to give up those things and be whole.

Oh wait…
Sure, it seems a rhetorical question with an obvious answer, but if that is so, why did Jesus ask?

Do you want to be made well? NKJV
Do you want to get well? NIV
Would you like to get well? NLT
Do you want to be healed? ESV
Do you desire to become well? BLB
Wilt thou be made whole? KJV

Yes!  Of course I want to be made well. I want to get well.  I would like to get well.  I want to be healed.  I desire to become well. I want to be made whole!  Don’t I?  Don’t you?

It has really caused me to pause.  When I plunge a bit deeper, where my fears and my insecurities and my anxieties and problem solving nature kick in, I want to take care of it myself.  I have the perfect solution.  Yes, I want my brokenness fixed, but if I am going to be completely honest, I want it fixed on my terms, at my pace, my way. I want my disease, my brokenness, my situation, my fears and insecurities, my hurts made well, but what will it take? I want these parts to not be this way, but can I hold on to this little piece? I’m rather attached to this little piece of unwell me.

made well aug 2016

What do I have to give up to be made whole? 

Myself.

Take, for example, the woman I wrote about in my previous post titled Desperation, she wanted to be well and sought after it with everything she had, risking death; she was made whole. Prior to that point, she was, in fact, desperate and wanted healing at whatever cost.  Do we?  Will we sacrifice anything, will we sacrifice ourselves to become whole? Will we give up our right to be healed on our terms, in our timing, in our way?  Will we give up our right to be right? What are we willing to sacrifice for wholeness?

The following story has been pressing on my heart lately. It comes from a recounted story of Jesus’ encounter with a disabled person at a pool called Bethesda, which means house of mercy. John 5:1-15 takes place some time after He had healed an official’s son in Galilee, his second sign after coming from Judea to Galilee.

The Healing at the Pool

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, Do you want to be made well?

Let me stop there for a minute. Why would Jesus ask that? For up to 38 years, this man had been carried or otherwise found his way and eventually apparently slept there in a bed at the fancy porches of the “house of mercy” pool in hopes he would be healed. He lay among a “great multitude of sick people, blind people, lame people, and paralyzed people”, each focused on their own disability, no doubt. Thirty eight years is a long time to have an infirmity (some translations call him an invalid) and sit by this highly acclaimed miraculous pool waiting to be healed. Of course he wants to be made well, right?  It’s such a simple question.  Yes or no?  Do YOU want to be made well?? His response:

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

There it is.  The excuse. The blame-shifting.  He didn’t even answer Jesus’ question! Granted, he had no clue it was Jesus asking, but still.  I am all alone, he says. No one helps me to the pool, he accuses.  I can’t do it all by myself, he moans. When he tries on his own, someone always beats him to it, he declares.

It’s not my fault. I’ve done my part. I’m here; aren’t I?  I obviously want to be made well, but… I have all these excuses.  If I am made well, what will I do with my time? Where will I go each day? Not only is this man an “invalid”, he feels in-valid.  He feels somehow that he is being robbed of this blessing. If only he had someone to help him.  If only someone didn’t beat him to the blessing first. For 38 years, this man has been a prisoner of this thinking that he is in-valid, passed over, unimportant, alone. I suspect he has reached a point where he thinks he cannot be made well.

 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

This man was made well after 38 years and is walking! It’s a miracle! He should be praising this man before him, who happens to be Jesus, for the miracle that happened in his life.  Instead… immediate attack.

And that day was the Sabbath.  The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

The group referred to here as “the Jews” did not proclaim, “Praise God!!  This man who was with infirmity for 38 years is walking!!”, but rather insinuated, ‘you horrible rule breaker!‘ Then, this man who is in the habit of being infirmed, who has grown accustomed to blaming others for his prolonged condition, who has had no one until the very point Someone came and healed him, immediately falls into old habits.

He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’

It’s that Man’s fault,  you know the one that changed my life forever, healed me of a lifelong illness, made me well.  He’s to blame!  The man had no one and now he has Someone who has just changed his life forever, yet, the man who was cured broke the rule because of Him that cured him. That Healer told me to pick up my bed and “work  on the Sabbath. That is a far cry from “thank You.”

Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

Even though accused instead of thanked, Jesus sought this man out.  Jesus urged this man to see.  See what has happened??  You have been made well!  Open your eyes, sir.  You have been freed from the chains of bondage to illness and blame and abandonment and rejection and helplessness.  Jesus had done that! Jesus found this man in the temple (since he no longer needed to hang out by the pool) and urged him to change from his ways.  Stop those habits.  Be free.  See that you are well.  Be well.

The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

And instead of seeing, the man, the healed man chose to go against Jesus and told those Jews exactly who they could blame for his being made well and carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  The man stepped right back into bondage.  I believe he did answer the question Jesus asked at the beginning of the encounter.  “Do you want to be made well?”

No, I don’t believe he did WANT to be made well.  I believe he had grown quite comfortable in his unwellness in his 38 years of infirmity.

We have this opportunity to be freed from the bondage and hurt and the brokenness that would keep us trapped in our infirmity. We have this opportunity to seize all that is offered: complete wholeness.  Just answer the question.  I am choosing YES! I want to be made whole.  I want to be made well. REALLY.  I want to change my habits. I want my heart changed to match His.  I want to allow me to see myself as whole, give up myself and my right to be right.  I desire to be made well.  It is a choice.

I pray you choose the same.  Wilt thou be made whole?

Hugiés,
Jenn

Desperation

Desperation.

We find ourselves in that place sometimes. Sometimes we find ourselves drowning there.

It’s that point existing just beyond the extreme end of pretending we have it all together. It’s that point where you have somehow managed every stress, every hurt, every crisis, every storm until this point, but that one thing, that one unexpected thing, whether it be an unbudgeted expense, a terrifying diagnosis, an out-of-the-blue confession, a dreaded phone call, the unimaginable situation… or perhaps that juggling act was so extreme that it took only something as trivial as your child coming home from school saying they need a plain white shirt for school tomorrow to send you sailing over the edge into that pit of “there’s-nothing-left-I-am-at-the-end-of-myself!!” Perhaps, though, it is just one situation, one thing that is so big, so impossible, so unexpected, so unbearable, it sends you soaring off the cliff of desperation. The mask comes off. Desperation.

Desperation [des-puhrey-shuh n] noun 1. the state of being desperate or of having the recklessness of despair.; 2.the act or fact of despairing; despair.

That’s not helpful unless you know what desperate means… Desperate [des-per-it, -prit] – adjective 1. reckless or dangerous because of despair, hopelessness, or urgency; 2.having an urgent need, desire, etc.; 3. leaving little or no hope; very serious or dangerous; 4. extremely bad; intolerable or shocking; 5. extreme or excessive.; 6. making a final, ultimate effort; giving all; 7. actuated by a feeling of hopelessness. (Reading the phonetic spelling of that word made me see the root.  De-Spirit.  What a hopeless place. Yes.  I have been there. You are not alone. There are others.)

But when you reach that point, and you cross that line, every breath becomes a challenge.  Every step takes effort.  The world seems to spin either incredibly fast or gravely slow.  I’ve ridden the line.  I know it’s a tight-rope with a  steep drop off.  You are not alone. Desperation is a place.

If you know this place, if you’re close to this place, if you are climbing out of this place, I am compelled to try to give you a message of hope and encouragement.

As I read, The Day I Met Jesus, by Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola, I was moved to share the stirrings in my heart (I definitely recommend that book). A common thread I see in many recorded Jesus-encounters (especially the ones involving healing and transformation) is desperation. Desperation is the place we find and encounter the fullness of Christ.
desperation blog

Let’s just take the woman with the disorder where she had been bleeding for  12 years (if you’re unfamiliar, I share it below. No worries). Let’s dive into that time and culture to better grasp her situation, see her, if you will.  She was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years straight, making her and anyone she comes in contact with ceremonially unclean.  In our culture today, the disorder would be a health issue, but her level of uncleanness is not that big of a deal to us, but in that culture, it was criminal and punishable by death. Since she was a threat to literally everyone, she undoubtedly lived a life of complete isolation and solitude, after all the failed doctors’ visits.  She couldn’t be married because her husband would also be unclean. Physically, she must have been anemic and incredibly weak and tired. Emotionally, she had no community, fellowship or support.  She was alone with her haunting illness. In a culture where men were the ones who worked and provided, she was left with nothing, doctors expenses had left her poor and unhealed, in fact her condition was reportedly worse than before. This poor, desperate and very lonely woman… my heart just aches for her.  I know she was desperate because only desperation could have compelled her to do what she did.

This unclean, weak and lonely woman, knew that Jesus was the answer.

Let me repeat that last part, she knew that Jesus was the answer.

Do we know that?  We need to… desperately.

She knew if she were to just touch the hem of His garment, she would be healed.  She didn’t need to be touched by Him.  She didn’t need to sit with Him.  She didn’t need Him to say anything.  She just needed to touch the hem of His garment. Her desperation gave birth to faith. As a by-product of her suffering, she knew in faith that to just touch the hem would heal her, His hem would be enough.

There was one really big problem.
Jesus was exceptionally popular at this point, and crowds had abundantly gathered around Him, thick crowds of many undoubtedly ceremonially clean men. This desperate, unclean, weak and lonely woman would have to plunge through a crowd of people who most likely knew that she was “that woman”.  Having been to many doctors and suffered as long as she had, there is little room for doubt that she had the reputation as being “that woman”. I don’t doubt they knew she was “the one with the bleeding disorder”. That very woman had to plow through that crowd of people who knew her and what she was doing to them, risking her very life, to touch His garment’s hem. That’s how I know she was desperate.  This was a suicide mission. If only she could touch the hem of His garment. Just the hem.

I’m sure she knew the likelihood of her being punished severely for her choice.  Her pain (desperation) outweighed that fear.  That’s desperation, when the pain becomes that unbearable that you would risk it all to no longer have the pain.  Jesus was her goal. Whatever the cost.

Here’s the story from Mark 5:24-34

So Jesus went with him (Jairus, whose daughter was dying), and a large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had been afflicted for twelve years by an issue of bleeding. She had suffered greatly under the care of many physicians and had spent all she had, but to no avail. Instead, her condition had only grown worse.

When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she kept saying, “If I only touch His clothes, I will be healed.” At that instant, her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

At once Jesus was aware that power had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd, He asked, “Who touched My clothes?”

His disciples answered, “You can see the crowd pressing in on You, and yet You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’

But He kept looking around to see who had done this. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him trembling in fear, and she told Him the whole truth.

Daughter,” said Jesus, your faith has healed you; go in peace and be free of your affliction.”

He was aware, and He wanted to see her. He felt her healing take place. She felt her healing take place. Her goal had been accomplished.  She had touched His hem. She had been healed, but He wanted to give her {more}. This terrified, desperate, unclean, weak, lonely and just healed woman was being called out to the open. She had done what she did still shrouded in a veil of secrecy, coming from behind Him to touch His garment.  She didn’t confront Him like Jairus, trying to desperately help his daughter; she dug through a crowd and touched His hem, hoping to go unnoticed, hoping to just be healed of this horrible illness.  BUT JESUS had so much {more} to offer her.  She confessed and believed, and Jesus offered her complete healing.  He announced to this very crowd – her would be prosecutors and executioners – that she was healed, she was no longer unclean.  He offered her peace and freedom.  He called her daughter. I know this is far {more} than this woman could have dreamed of ever happening.  She was called His daughter. She was healed. Her reputation was cleared.  She was given peace.  She was given freedom.  This woman experienced complete sozo healing.

That’s what He offers. I see so often that our prayers ask for just this, or maybe Lord, if you could just do that, putting Him in that box, limiting our thoughts of His capability… but we have Jesus who can do immeasurably MORE than we can ask or imagine! (That’s Ephesians 3:20-21 paraphrased.) Have faith, my dear friends.  Have faith that He can do what you want and so much more than you can even imagine.  You don’t have to hide in it.  You don’t have to be afraid.  He wants to free you of your desperation completely.

Let Him. Just touch His hem.

Jenn

It’s not you. It’s Him.

And then, occasionally, you get launched from the boat, into the tumultuous waves crashing all around you, and the wind roars through your weary, war-worn bones,  and it seems a hopeless situation, threatening to drown you in an unforgiving sea of life’s chaos. A big gulp before going under, as the churning waves crash over your head. You flail your arms and beg for someone to see you, to reach out to you, to let you know that the storm will not win. To let you know you’re not alone.

I know I am not the only one who gets there.
There are many of us.
We are His warriors.
We are being trained.
We are not alone.

I know the waves are big and scary,  the debt seems insurmountable, the disease seems to persist, the hurt seems like it will never heal, the child seems to challenge everything, the loss seems too great, the burden feels too heavy, the past seems unforgivable, the people seem too harsh, the memories seem too vivid… I’ve been in those places. I’ve been nearly consumed in those very waves. It’s real.  You’re not imagining it.

This is not all there is.
There is {more}.
All hope is not gone.
You are not alone.

I see you.

More importantly, He sees you.

This.  All of this.  Is just a season. It is temporary.

Your focus is on the circumstances, and I get it.  I really do.  I’ve been overboard.  I know how hard it is to NOT see the waves and the storm when they are crashing all around you, threatening to take you down.  I know how hard it is to take your eyes off the mess before you and focus on something, Someone greater.

I’d like to take a little detour.  You see, as I read the Word, I always feel a {kindred-ness} with the apostle Peter. Leave it to me to pick the impulsive one, the one who leaps recklessly, wildly chops off ears, and blatantly denies and doubts Jesus, after spending years by His side, witnessing the very miracles and walking in the very power. Yep, he’s the one I “get“.

I want to share just a part of Peter’s story from Matthew 14 with a few of my own {notes} (25-33).  It might be familiar to you.  It might not.  I pray you read it as if for the first time.:

During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the sea {wow!!}. When the disciples {including Peter} saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified {I can only assume that means Peter was one of those terrified, as well}. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus {can we just pause after that… so many great things start with But Jesus.} immediately spoke up: Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.

{Here comes my guy, Peter} “Lord, if it is You,” {Doubt. I recognize it all too well.} Peter replied, “command me to come to You on the water.” {Willingness. I recognize that too.}

“Come,” said Jesus. {Take courage.  It is I. Do not be afraid and now, come.}

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.{I can totally see myself in this place. I doubted, yet He said come, so I went. I’m sort of a weather freak, so it works that I would connect with the one stepping out from the safety of the boat onto crashing, stormy waves.} But {uh oh, I hear more doubt.} when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid {fear is not from God, the One who tells the wind to blow.}, and beginning to sink, {his very doubt/lack of faith interrupted the miracle} cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately {Jesus was right there!!  He was right there!! Peter reset his focus and boom, IMMEDIATELY} Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. {He was right there!!} “You of little faith, {Ouch!}” He said, “why did you doubt?” {why indeed?}

And when they {Jesus and Peter} had climbed back into the boat, the wind died down. {the wind was no longer useful. Jesus who could have stopped the storm while Peter started floundering in the waves could have, yet He waited until they were safely back in the boat. } Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are Son of God!” {revelation}

but jesus 2Oh my golly.  So much in this story.  There are so many aspects of this story that speak to me powerfully. I can relate on so many levels.  I can literally see myself as Peter, seeing, doubting, going, worrying, sinking, begging, refocusing.  Since I am currently working on an issue of control with my Father, I feel that He wants me to look at the doubt and lack of faith aspect of this situation. Peter, amidst the storm and the waves, asked Jesus to call him out upon the water.  He looked at the waves before he got out of the boat, but he wasn’t seeing them.  Why?  Because his focus, at that moment, like the rest of the disciples, was set on this Man walking on those waves.

Christine Caine, during a recent night at Unashamed (which a dear friend invited me to attend with her, and it blessed my soul in so many ways), spoke extensively on the distinction between looking and seeing.  You can look and then look away, virtually unchanged, but you can never see and then unsee, she shared. What a powerful truth!!

Peter looked out and saw Jesus, not the waves. He saw help. He did not see the storm. Sure, he doubted, but when called, he stepped out, in faith (for a minute). Jesus said come, so he went. He saw Jesus. Not the waves. Until that moment when he saw the waves instead of Jesus, and he began to sink, even though Jesus was right there!!!

You see, Peter forgot that he was walking on the water because Jesus made him able to.  He forgot to focus on Who was in charge of this miracle taking place. He saw the waves and thought, I’m in danger, I can’t save myself, I will drown in this storm, I can’t do it!!

HE WASN’T DOING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!

When Jesus told Peter to come, in that moment, despite the waves, despite the wind, and despite the fact that Peter, a former fisherman, most certainly knew he was not able to walk on water, Peter stepped out.  He trusted {boldly} for that moment that it didn’t matter because Jesus. How quickly we forget! How quickly the waves and the storm and the debt and the illness and the kids and the hurt and the whatever crisis (insert yours here) causes us to lose our focus and see just that crisis/situation, instead of the very One who defeats it.

Put your eyes back on Jesus, friend.
Let Him call you out onto those deep waters.
Look that storm in the face and tell it, but Jesus.
Don’t lose your focus.
Don’t see at the waves and the storm.
See Jesus.
He sees you.

That’s all I got.
Jenn

 

 

I know who wins.

Lately, I have been in a place of deep reflection, of humble retrospect. I have sat in the center of a typhoon of crises that beg my attention, only to have me shrug away, grasp for air, respite from the swirling mass of circumstances and reach for something more.  More.  That word keeps finding its way into my heart lately. More. There is more. More than these circumstances that threaten to drown me, not because they are happening to me.  I am blessed. They are swirling around me. I feel like the person in the “safe house” watching a tornado bounce around, completely destroying everything in its path, showing no mercy. I am powerless to stop it, powerless to help anyone.  I am not in control.  I’m just watching and knowing.

I’m not in control.

As someone who has battled control issues for her entire life, that is a humbling realization. I am not in control. As much as I am heart broken by, angry at, frustrated with, disappointed in, confused about, fearful of the circumstances swirling around me, I am a spectator.  I am powerless.  I am not in control.

Despite that.  Despite the lack of control over the circumstances that threaten to crush, I do get to choose my response. I get to choose my reaction. I get to choose where I let my mind dwell. I have a responsibility to choose.

That’s my job.

There is More.  More comes and makes promises and keeps them.  More is Comforter and Peace.  More is a quiet place of Refuge and Strength and because of there being more, I can choose joy.  I can choose hope.  I can choose peace.  I can choose to not be consumed. I can choose to take my eyes off of the waves crashing around me and loved ones and focus on the One who offers more, and I can accept what He offers.

There are so many people close to me involved in some larger than life crisis right now.  It’s unbelievable how many around me are engaged in the battle of their lives.  Some know it.  Some don’t.  Some are fighting.  Some have no clue how.  Some are battle worn.  Some are rested and ready to go back in.  Some are drowning. Some are hurting and tending to wounds.  War is messy. I’ve been in that war. I’ve got my own battle scars. I know.

Some days, I am launched back there onto the front lines, with my chipped armor, and the darts start flying. I am inclined to give away my joy and peace and hope, like trophies to the enemy.  “Here you go, I guess you can have them,” in a voice of defeat.  NO! By golly, we win!  I’ve read the book, I know the outcome.  I know that the enemy loses.  I will NOT be defeated anymore!  I will not allow the enemy to swoop in and grasp the very foundation out from under me.  I WILL choose joy.  I WILL choose peace. I WILL choose hope.  I WILL choose NOT to be consumed. They are within grasp.  I just need to choose to grasp them and help my loved ones to grasp them when they have offered them up as trophies in their own battle.  I am not in control, but I am on the winning team.  I am part of an impenetrable army of warriors.  We will not be shaken.

imageWe win.
He loses.